On Friday, I traveled with the US envoy to Rwanda to Mahama refugee base in Kirehe District. It was my second time there but the effects were the same; I couldn’t sleep well as my mind replayed images of sick kids in the camp; I woke-up angry at failed politicians turned megalomaniacs.
Politics or politikos in Greek means “of, for, or relating to citizens”…it’s the practice of influencing other people.
And politicians use different methods to influence people; many being disciples of Philosopher Nicole Machiavelli whose teachings on pragmatism hold that the end justifies the means.
Unfortunately, only noble ends justify the means; say in the process of killing a poisonous cobra, I broke a blind man’s walking cane; chances are that society would forgive me for my methods would have saved them a larger problem, a poisonous snake.
But what we have in Mahama is a good example of a bad end whose means politicians behind it will never be able to justify.
If politics is about influencing people then there’s no politics without people. That’s why I have a very low opinion of Burundian politicians whose means of convincing Burundians that they deserve a third term have resulted in deaths and displacement of civilians.
You don’t influence people through force or intimidation for that way; you only succeed at becoming an impostor.
And it’s a shame because half the refugees I talked to in the camp told me that they voted for President Nkurunziza in 2010, at the time, he successfully influenced them to believe he deserved a 2nd term. So what went wrong this time?
After obtaining power, sensible politicians focus on how to consolidate their gains; they do so by removing all obstacles that could stand in their way, in the short, medium and long term.
One method is by playing appeasement politics where one consolidates power by settling their rivals’ interests through political appointments or giving them lucrative contracts…or if possible simply eliminate them out of the picture.
But nothing works better than appeasing the people, the electorate that’s responsible for the ballot victory which gives any politician the much craved legitimacy for once you have the people, you have the power.
How do you win the people? It’s simple. Serve them well. Fix the economy, build the roads, create the environment for them to prosper and safeguard the security to protect their own investments, that way, they’ll fight to keep you in power to safeguard their own prosperity.
The only danger in serving the people so well is that the leader could end up becoming a hostage of the people.
Even if the leader is probably serving their last term, people would do everything in their power, (which power they always have in a proper democracy) to change the laws of the land in order to continue enjoying benefits of good leadership.
Picture a situation where you are on the bus to Rubavu when all of a sudden one passenger demands to replace the driver so that he could have a go at the steering; as if on cue, the other passengers break out in chorus, protesting the takeover, they grab him by his slacks and tie him down with ropes.
“Do you want to drive us in a canyon, huh? I say tie him tight,” one angry passenger is heard protesting.
Never mind that the passenger who wants to have ago at the steering is actually a qualified driver and of sound mind to safely deliver the vehicle.
Unfortunately for him, the guy in the driving seat has proven himself competent having driven from Kigali to Musanze and the passengers have confidence that he’ll take them all the way to Rubavu.
But in a situation where the guy on the wheel had exhibited signs incompetence after a passenger noticed him dozing while incoherently muttering to himself, everyone would be scared for their safety.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I have reasonable evidence to believe that our driver here isn’t in the right state of mind to drive us safely. With your permission, I request to take over; I am a driver myself and here’s my valid license.”
The new contender is likely to be welcomed by the passengers as a God-sent messiah and they would eagerly support his takeover of the bus from the dozy fellow on the wheel.
Mr. Nkurunziza failed to use his two terms in office to remove the one obstacle that would stop him from having a third term; instead, he waited until the last minute with just a few months to election.
But most of all, the President forgot to serve the people’s interests, if he had, the people would be fighting for him to stay on, not the other way round.